Because life is a series of edits

Archive for June, 2013|Monthly archive page

What I’ve Yet to Learn on Summer Vacation

In Family, Friends, Health, Holidays, Places, Thought, Vacation on June 23, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Vacation

We're set to go on "vacation" in another week, which only means we're seeing a few friends and family in a few places we've already lived. When it comes to "vacation", we stopped using the "v" word a long time ago; we're always taking "trips" instead. (For the antithesis of our experience, Google "Vacation".)

Our initial plans for a break were to start this week and go through the Fourth of July week for a total of 12-14 days away, but that schedule got thrown out months ago because of a board meeting this Friday, as well as that, summer or not, we've got a limited amount of time to launch a new school two months from today. And that's okay…or at least reality.

I don't know if it's a blessing or a curse, but reality is where I tend to live and move and have my being, often at the expense of my many idealist dreams. I wanted to take Megan to London for a week for our honeymoon; we ended up renting a cabin in Arkansas for three days because we had neither time nor money to do otherwise. I went to Africa and planned for our family to spend six months in Uganda in the fall of 2001 (with an eye to possibly staying years as missionaries); Megan, however, became pregnant with our third that summer and 9/11 happened in September, so those plans changed.

After a nice "trip" back to Colorado Springs (where we lived for 12 years) last summer, we hoped to return this summer so the girls could finally go to Eagle Lake together (the last year it would be possible because of their ages) and we could get some time alone as well as part of a major staff reunion; however, school merger necessities made that trip impossible, especially if we wanted to also get back to the family farm in Illinois, which we haven't been to since Christmas (another "trip").

Our plan next week? We just finalized it this weekend (which gives you some indication of how little it actually entails): see a few friends in St. Louis, spend 4-5 days on the farm, catch Megan's parents in Tulsa on the way back. That's it…and usually what it always is.

I feel like a failure when it comes to the Great American Vacation, largely because I'm not sure I have the courage (among other things – time, money, people-quotient) to actually take one. We've made noble attempts – the aforementioned trip to Colorado, for instance, or an actual "vacation" in the summer of 2009 to Florida so we could take a few pictures and prove to the girls that they, indeed, had once stood on a beach and seen an actual ocean – but in 16 years, that's about it.

I remember one year before we had kids, Megan and I got a phone call from a timeshare company inviting us to make a trip from Colorado Springs to Pagosa Springs for a free weekend getaway if we sat through their presentation. We went, but the only thing I remember from the time was the company representative asking me how "committed" we were to "vacation." Committed to vacation? As a farm kid, I had never heard those words used in the same sentence before. We didn't buy a timeshare.

I get that people need breaks (and maybe it's my pride that wrestles with that fact that I do as well), but taking time off (especially when I love what I do as much as I do) is a very unnatural experience for me. Even when we leave on "vacation" next week, it's going to be a working trip: we're unveiling new uniforms for The Academy that Monday and if there's anything people have opinions about more than what their students are learning, it's what their kids are wearing while they're learning. It's too early in our school's one-month-old existence to make this kind of announcement and not be available (at least by phone, email, or online) should there be any questions.

What is it I've yet to learn on summer vacation? I suppose it's just how and why (not to mention where and when) to actually take one. For those who have figured it out, I welcome your rationales.

And if you're on vacation, well, I guess, enjoy it (somebody has to).

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On Being a Faithfulist

In Calling, Education, Oklahoma City, The Academy on June 17, 2013 at 8:37 am

Grapesfromcanaan

“The brave find a home in every land.”
Ovid

One week ago, I led the first meeting of The Academy‘s new Operational Team, comprised of equal parts administrative staff from our previous two schools.

I started with an odd question, particularly since the new school came into being just a few weeks ago: Are we in the glory days of The Academy? While I asked the question rhetorically, in the past five months since announcing our new school, I’ve come across four different perspectives – syndromes, really – out of which people usually answer:

  1. Those with Founders Syndrome tend to think the question is a silly one even to ask; it’s been downhill from the very beginning when things were small, simple, and good, and this is just a continuing stumble away from that path.
  2. Those with Separatist Syndrome argue we were better off separated and should never have done this in the first place; after all, there’s just no way things can possibly be as good together as the good that we once had apart.
  3. Those with Fatalist Syndrome are not nearly as vocal, but for no real good reason, they genuinely believe the whole thing was over before it started; the end is near, they think, and it’s just a matter of time.
  4. Those with Futurist Syndrome come from the perspective that the past counts for little to nothing; the only real good that is going to come from any of this lies in the days to come.

Lest we think one of these is right, I would suggest none is; in fact, the Scriptures would seem to caution us against adopting any of these perspectives. Consider:

Ecclesiastes 7 pushes back on the Founders and the Separatists: “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this” (verse 10). Things change: people are different, places are different, needs are different, culture is different, times are different. This doesn’t mean that God has changed and is different as well, but the Scriptures remind us that, even in his constancy, he is always doing something new. Our role is to respond accordingly (see Psalm 98:1).

So much of the Bible argues against the Fatalist view that it seems silly to even list Scripture to make the point. Suffice it to say, the covenantal story of God’s redemption of a fallen creation, renewed over and over again throughout history with a people so unworthy of such renewal, would seem to banish any kind of fatalist idea. There is no precedent or permission to be fatalistic because God is anything but.

Concerning the Futurist perspective, Proverbs 22:28 is succinct in its caution not to diminish the past (“Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set”), nevermind the majority of the Old Testament’s example after example of what happens when one generation forgets the former. And I’m not convinced that what many consider to be the most futurist book in the Bible (Revelation) didn’t hold plenty of meaning at the time for John’s audience suffering under the persecution of Domition during the late first century.

So what’s an alternative to being Founders, Separatists, Fatalists, or Futurists? I’d like to suggest we become “Faithfulists” instead.

In thinking of an illustrative biblical character, it’s hard to do better than Caleb as an example of a “Faithfulist.” In the Old Testament story of the spies sent to explore the Promised Land, the Bible says that Caleb didn’t choose to cower to the brutal realities of strong people present in the land in large and fortified cities  (Numbers 13:28). Contrast his response with that of the spies, who quaked in fear, alarming the people and concluding, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are” (Numbers 13:31), for it “is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height” (Numbers 13:32).

There were two extremes to the spies’ disobedient response:

  1. Reticent unbelief (extreme caution/fear) that initially paralyzed them (see Numbers 13:31-33)
  2. Presumptuous unbelief (overconfidence/carelessness) with which they later tried to make up for their original fear (see Numbers 14:44)

The results of both did not turn out well. The dichotomy of decision merited vastly different outcomes – the death of an entire generation of people just outside the Promised Land and Caleb’s (and Joshua’s) entry into it. Caleb received what he had been promised because of his faith in Who had promised (see Joshua 14). He was brave, and as the Roman poet Ovid eloquently points out, “The brave find a home in every land.”

Brave is what Faithfulists are; believe – in God and enough to do what he asks – is what Faithfulists do; a home in every land is just the beginning of the Faithfulist’s reward.

(Art: The Grapes from the Promised Land, Nicolas Pussin, 1660-1664)

We’re Off Like a Herd of Turtles

In Parents, Students, Teachers, The Academy on June 6, 2013 at 10:55 am


I’m not even sure I can put into words the swirl of thoughts and emotions that I find myself consumed by these days as I think about The Academy of Classical Christian Studies. Perhaps like you, I am a concoction of wonder, doubt, fear, worry, hope, excitement, and faith concerning our new school.

There was a recent episode of The Office (or so I’ve heard) in which one of the characters muses “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” I resonate with the thought, especially on the heels of a last-minute trip I took to St. Louis to watch the boys I coached two years ago as freshmen and sophomores win their third straight state baseball championship. The weekend was a good weekend because those days were good days.

What about now? Have we just left the best days we’ve known as Providence Hall and Veritas, or are there new ones God has planned for The Academy?

I think we all know what the answer is; the question is, do we believe – really believe – it? I confess it’s been more than once that Nathan Carr and I have thought about what it would have been like to not investigate, instigate, and implement our new school. Life already seems more complicated since we were separate entities, but we’re not separate anymore (at least not legally as of June 1), and both of us hope this isn’t a mistake.

I honestly don’t think it is, but I can’t definitively say it’s for the best either, at least not yet. I have no immense amounts of evidence, no undeniable proof yet of this being for the good. I think it will be and I’m betting it will be, but I don’t know. The only thing I know is that we’re all once about to embrace a whole lot of work and risk and hope and pressure that I’m praying will – in two years, in five years, in ten years – seem silly to remember as such.

Like you, I want to have the sense that Jesus is leading, willing, and able to engage with us in the midst of all that we’re trying to do. I don’t doubt his hand, nor do I sense his absence, but it will take time to look back and identify a prolonged confidence of rightness about all of this. The fact is we’re all a little bit nervous.

I won’t pretend: I’m sometimes at a loss as to how to really pull this off. A majority of us have experience in education, but few of us can say we’ve ever merged two schools into one, nor have many of us even seen it attempted or done well. Maybe it won’t be as hard as I think it will be…or maybe it will be. Regardless, that shouldn’t stop us; we have the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and each other – I’m not sure there’s anything more we need.

Obviously, all of this would be easier if decisions could be purely objective, if opportunities could be evaluated one-dimensionally, and if nobody involved really cared about any of it. The reality, however, is our decisions involve real people, our opportunities are multi-layered, and we are a school filled with passionate people – board members, families, parents, faculty, staff, and students – who really care. If we’re not careful, this could be a train wreck waiting to happen.

But it’s also an amazing chance to believe God for something more – something more than we think we’re even capable of believing. As we step out in faith, I want to ask you to commit with me in our relational covenant – that 1) we would believe the best in one another; that 2) we would stand shoulder with one another; and that 3) we would talk to and not about one another as we endeavor to move forward as The Academy of Classical Christian Studies.

Healthy things grow beautifully into the way they were designed to grow; unhealthy things mutate – often into ugly and dysfunctional things that eventually die. Our relationships are the key to our growth and whether that growth is healthy or not.

Are we really going to pull this off? Is it really possible to grow our new school into what we hope it will become?

You and I both know that if God’s answer is “yes,” then so should ours be. In the past eight months – while working with dozens of godly and talented people from both schools – there have been plenty of opportunities for the possibility of God to say “no,” but that word has not seemed to come.

Instead, we have felt confident to move forward, even though we see in a mirror dimly, but hope to one day see more face to face; despite the fact that we know only in part but trust to know one day fully, even as we have been fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12). I’m grateful for your willingness to go with us and pledge to you to lead you and follow Christ as best I can.

“If there is an end for all we do, it will be the good achievable by action.” Aristotle

Let’s do this!